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Distressed that I could not bring PM to Jaffna: Salman Khurshid

Khurshid said that India would help Tamil people in Sri Lanka in all ways it could.

Written by Y P Rajesh | Colombo |
November 16, 2013 4:07:57 am

“I’m the first PM or President to go to the north of Sri Lanka since 1948. I want to shine a light on chilling events there first hand. #CHOGM,” British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted Friday afternoon,hours after the 23rd summit of the Commonwealth Heads Of Government had opened in Colombo.

Cameron may have been reaching out to his own audience concerned about the alleged human rights violations and the plight of Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamils,but India could not miss the point.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,whose government has been under intense pressure from politicians in Tamil Nadu over the issue of Sri Lankan Tamils,was supposed to have made that trip to Jaffna.

“Isn’t that sad?” External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid replied when asked by The Indian Express if Cameron had not stolen India’s thunder by becoming the first foreign PM to visit Jaffna.

“I wanted my Prime Minister to be the first to go. I was the first foreign minister to go from India. I wanted my Prime Minister to go. But who do I blame for it?” Khurshid asked.

“I am not blaming anyone but I am only saying this as a matter of fact that I am disappointed as I couldn’t take my Prime Minister there as the first prime minister in the world to visit to Jaffna.

“We are building 50,000 houses,I couldn’t show those to him. We’ve built roads there,I couldn’t show those to him. We are doing schools and community shelters,I couldn’t show those to him. I feel distressed because I wanted to show all these to him,” Khurshid told a group of Indian journalists.

His comments underlined the tortuous debate in the UPA that led to the decision last week that PM Singh would skip the CHOGM summit after coming under pressure from politicians across the spectrum in Tamil Nadu,including the Congress.

The decision has also been attributed to warming ties between the Congress and the DMK ahead of next year’s elections.

But Khurshid said that he didn’t want to pin blame for the decision,and also denied there was a division in the Congress over the issue. He said the Congress had not decided,and there were several views in the party.

“It is good I think the view prevailed that we must not boycott. We must continue to engage… engaging at what level and which manner,there can be a lot of reasons for it,” he said.

Countering the belief in some sections in Tamil Nadu that India can play a decisive role in addressing the problems of Sri Lankan Tamils,Khurshid said the issues had to be addressed from within,and foreign powers had only a limited role.

“Our stand is that… truth and reconciliation must go hand in hand. That if you want to move on and build a society together in which everyone comes together in equal dignity,then you need to address some of the concerns,” he said.

“But the important thing is they have to be addressed from within. They have to be addressed from within the society in Sri Lanka and not addressed in New Delhi or Washington or somewhere else.

“We can express our concern but we can’t address these issues. They must be addressed by the people of Sri Lanka,and they must be addressed by the government of Sri Lanka.

“Our job may well be to persuade them,to help them,to incentivise them to find a solution and address these issues. But we cannot ourselves address these issues because this is not our responsibility. This is a sovereign country,a sovereign government and it is for the sovereign government to take this responsibility and fulfill it,” Khurshid said.

However,New Delhi has the right to tell Sri Lanka to address these issues as they were also affecting India,he said,adding that India would help in all ways it could. Khurshid also said that he had conveyed this to Colombo before and was doing so again.

Asked if PM Singh would not have had better success at persuading Sri Lanka if he had taken part in the CHOGM summit,Khurshid said: “I think the Prime Minister of India has greater persuasive powers than I have. But some people thought he shouldn’t be here. So if a lesser person has come to persuade,who’s to blame? Don’t blame me.

“As far as I am concerned we know what we have to do and we will continue to do that. We don’t want to blame anybody. We don’t want to complain about anybody. Let everybody decide what is the best way in which they can help. I wish the Tamil Nadu government could send some relief,” he said.

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